7-day Ultimatum: Ondo govt cautions FG against defending criminals

•Berates Garba Shehu over statement

The Ondo State Government on Wednesday cautioned the Federal Government to stop defending criminal elements masquerading as herdsmen but should device means to stop the bloodshed and improve the security of lives and property.

The state commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Donald Ojogo, who stated this on Channels Television breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, monitored by our correspondent, described the activities of the criminal elements as inimical to the development of the country and should be checked.

Ojogo while reacting to the statement of the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, expressed dismay over the statement, describing it as “a suspicious defence of criminal elements” under the guise of herdsmen.

The Commissioner who berated Shehu over the statement said Shehu spoke for the herdsmen and not the Presidency and maintained that herders must obey the seven-day quit order by Akeredolu to either leave the forest reserves in the state or register with the state government.

Shehu had cautioned Akeredolu against the eviction order to the herdsmen, describing such as ill-advised.

Shehu, in a statement on Tuesday, defended the right of the herders to live in any parts of the country, saying the Akeredolu cannot “unilaterally oust thousands of herders who have lived all their lives in the state on account of the infiltration of the forests by criminals.”

But Ojogo said “It’s certain and I’m convinced that Mr President by his nationalistic posture and patriotism, could not have directed that the statement be issued.

“I’m even almost persuaded to believe that Garba Shehu never issued the statement. And if he indeed authored the statement, it is highly despicable.

“It means that there are certain officials in the Presidency who are creating problems for the President.

“His suspicious defence of criminal elements under the guise of herdsmen is most unacceptable and goes a long way to show that Miyetti Allah could not have done better.

“For emphasis, people must differentiate between natural forests and Forest Reserves. What the Ondo state government has done is to ensure proper regulation of those who are in the reserves and have provided habitation for criminals.

“I do not believe by his pedigree that he might want to offer himself as the spokesperson for people masquerading as herdsmen and committing crimes.

“I don’t want to believe he has offered himself as the spokesperson for criminal elements who are operating under herdsmen.

“If Garba Shehu indeed issued that statement, then, he owes the people of this country a great deal of explanation to let people know why he must take up the fight of criminal elements”

Ojogo explained that security agents have enough facts that victims of kidnappings in the state were being taken into the thick of the forest reserves by criminal elements who have infiltrated the ranks of the Fulani herdsmen who occupy portions of the forest reserves.

He maintained that the state government was bent on clearing the “mess” hence, all herdsmen in the forest reserves must vacate the place before Monday, January 25, 2021.

Meanwhile, members of the Ondo State Youth Parliament on Wednesday threw their weight behind Akeredolu over his decision to check the activities of criminal elements in the state.

In a statement issued and signed by the Speaker, Ondo State Youth Parliament, Hon. Smith Ikumapayi, who urged Akeredolu not to concede or yield to pressure to reverse his decision.

Ikumapayi who lambasted the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, for defending the criminals said the statement harped on unfounded sentiment.

The statement read that “the Executive Governor of Ondo State, Mr Oluwarotimi Akeredolu has simply ordered all cattle herders, regardless of ethnic origin to register with the government and vacate from unauthorized areas, including forests. This does not attract any political or ethnic sentiment.

“We make bold to state that the decision of the Governor of Ondo State is one that restores the property right to residents of the state, and the state herself.

“The entire youths of Ondo State stand welcome this order by the governor. The people of Ondo state are not cowards and will by no means retreat on the responsive decision taken by her Governor.

“It is preposterous for Mr Garba Shehu to state that the clear message to those masquerading as herders is contradicting, inconsistent and inaccurate in intent.”

The statement read further that “It is as well insulting and inciting to propose a restraint by whatever means and insinuate a discord between the state government and the leadership of the Fulani communities.

“It is unfortunate that Mr Garba Shehu, a supposed media communicator deliberately failed to differentiate between the unregistered herders ask to leave the forest and leaving Ondo State, and cattle breeders.

“Also, Mr Garba can’t claim to be more Catholic than the Pope. Thereby, discussing the constitution and constitutionality of the decision. Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and a custodian of the Nigerian constitution at such.

“We agree as a people, that they need to delink terrorism and crimes from ethnicity, geographical origins and religion is most appropriate. However, in a situation where ten out of ten cases and accounts of crimes points to a certain direction can not be overlooked.

“Furthermore, we urge the entire Ondo State youths to be alive to their responsibilities and obligations as citizens and the future of the state.

“Any attempt for anyone including the governor to concede to pressure will be resisted and we will lead the entire youths to the streets to ventilate our reservations.”

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